Sinn Féin councillor Elisha McCallion has said Derry’s addiction taskforce is making significant progress in tackling the problem of so-called ‘legal highs’.
Speaking to the Journal yesterday afternoon, Colr. McCallion said the taskforce had helped to get all relevant bodies working towards the same objective.
“We set up Derry’s addiction taskforce to tackle this scourge and to bring together all the organisation and individuals working in this field. To date it has made significant progress in tackling the abuse of legal highs and other drugs.
“Not only has it brought together all of the bodies working to help those struggling with addiction, it has also brought a co-ordinated focus on work going on at all levels to combat drug abuse.
“That includes community level, to Derry City Council, to Maeve McLaughlin chairing the Assembly’s health committee and Martina Anderson leading on the battle against legal highs at the European Parliament.”
Colr. McCallion went on to say that after meeting with the Attorney General for the North, John Larkin, he has agreed to come to Derry to help address the problem of local highs.
“We are working with the legal department of the Policing Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) to make the sale of so-called legal highs illegal following the landmark injunction secured by Belfast City Council and the Attorney General.
“We are working closely with the Attorney General on that issue and he has signalled that he is willing to come to the city to assist us.
“As well as campaigning to prevent more people becoming addicted, the taskforce is also working to improve services for those struggling with addiction.
“In particular, we are focusing on ensuring appropriate and adequate facilities are in place for young people under the age of 18.
“We will be taking a delegation to the health minister Jim Wells to call for more resources for under 18s dealing with polysubstance abuse.”
The local councillor went on to say that turning the Whiteoaks facility on the border would be a step in the right direction towards tackling the issue of legal highs in Derry.
“We are also working on a cross-border basis with Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) to utilise the Whiteoaks facility.
“One of the most important things that the taskforce has achieved to date, however, has been to give a voice to the families of those struggling with addiction.
“At a recent meeting the mothers of three young people dealing with addiction gave harrowing accounts of their experiences.
“No one could have failed to have been moved by their stories.
“It is their stories that motivate us to continue the battle against substance abuse and to campaign for improved facilities for those dealing with addiction,” she said.